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15-Year-Old Freshman with Down Syndrome Makes Successful Climb up Mount Everest

Update Date: Mar 27, 2013 11:44 AM EDT
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How many people have put a goal of climbing Mount Everest on their bucket list? One high school freshman with Down's Syndrome has already crossed it off his list. At 15 years old, Elisha Reimer made history by climbing to Mount Everest's base camp in Nepal with his father.

According to Time magazine, Elisha, nicknamed Eli, made the trip with his father and a team of seven other people. The hike of 17,598 feet took two weeks and a year of training. The summit to the base is a significant challenge; there, most climbers wait for several days to become used to the air pressure at the new altitude.

Eli, from Bend, Oregon, was not the first person with the chromosomal disorder to climb Mount Everest. A 35-year-old man from the United Kingdom was the first and only person with Down's syndrome to reach base camp. However, Eli is the first American and the youngest person with Down's syndrome to make the trip. According to WBTV, his father says that, when the energy of the rest of the team was flagging, Eli was the person who motivated them to continue.

"We're able to celebrate that as we departed Katmandu with [Eli] just completing something that as far as we know, no other teen with Down Syndrome has done, so it's monumental," Justin Riemer said to WBTV.

The trip was not simply  an excursion for Eli and his father. It was performed as a way to raise money for the Elisha Foundation, a non-profit organization set up by Eli's parents, Justin and Tamara, in 2005. The foundation aims to provide support to families of children with special needs, through the use of "refreshment and encouragement," the Huffington Post reports. The Elisha Foundation seeks to provide compassion in communities where children with special needs are marginalized, as the NBC News Bay Area reports. The organization also raises money and awareness for orphans with disabilities. Indeed, Justin Reimer does not refer to his son's Down's Syndrome as a disability, but rather as his "uniqueness".

Dozens of well-wishers gathered at the Los Angeles International Airport to greet the team upon their arrival, with balloons and cheers.

The trip garnered $85,000 for the foundation.

For more information about the Elisha Foundation, visit their page here.

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